This ultra-urban, former warehouse district is one of Chicago's hip, up-and-coming neighborhoods, just steps away from Loop. The West Loop shares corner space with fine galleries and some of the city's trendiest lofts and condominiums. The neighborhood is great for those who like being next to downtown, but enjoy a little breathing room. Even though it had its start as an industrial storage center, the West Loop is making up for lost time by infusing the area with as much active life and entertainment options as space will allow. Beginning with a couple public parks, the community is not for want of open expanses of green or recreation opportunities these days. In fact, West Loop's Union Park is more than a playground – it doubles as an annual outdoor festival venue for the popular Pitchfork Music Festival each year. West Loop is also gaining fame for its exceptional cuisine with more celebrity chefs opening up shop in the area more than any other neighborhood.
What started out in the late 1800s as part of Chicago's warehouse district has recently become one of the trendiest neighborhoods for young families and working thirty-somethings in the city. Even though its roots dig more than a century back, in terms of the residential market here, the West Loop is a relative newbie.
In the 1800s, immigrants of mixed backgrounds, many from Eastern Europe and Russia came looking for work and began settling in the region. Still, the West Loop remained a relatively industrial place. It wasn't until Greektown was founded later in the century that commercial sites and eventually residential housing started to go up in the vicinity jumpstarting the West Loop's history.
In the 1920s, flappers ruled the dance floor, Prohibition prompted the Dry Law, and a wave of immigration brought in a diverse lot of peopleâ€”some of whom came to work in the factories and ended up staying in the neighborhood to live, resulting in even more expansion. Forty years later, when the University of Illinois expanded to open its Chicago campus (just south of the West Loop), the need for housing increased dramatically, and new developments became the answer, spurring a trend towards converting existing warehouses into cool lofts and condominiums.
Today the area is best described as â€œindustrial chicâ€ and a fast-developing neighborhood where dockworkers can grab a cup of coffee on the same corner that the Queen of Talk herself Oprah Winfrey call used to call home.
Freight trucks mingle with BMWs along the neighborhood's border roads of Ashland Avenue and Halsted Street, while parents pushing baby strollers strut alongside dog walkers and joggers. We think this section of town has a fine balance between urban renovation and historic preservation, especially since the local charm has remained intact: Many wholesale warehouses have been given new life as art galleries, while local policy-makers have managed to preserve long-time industries still important to Chicago's livelihood.
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